Five Brookdale professors and one former professor were presented with one of the college’s highest honors on Sept. 5, after being selected by their fellow faculty members for the 2017 Outstanding Colleague Award.
Assistant library professor Valerie Bonilla, nursing professor Linda Hoffman, assistant mathematics professor Hanli Huang, assistant biology professor Robert Martens, and associate psychology professor Rajkumari Wesley all received the award during the faculty association’s first college-wide meeting of the school year, held following Fall Convocation in the Student Life Center.
Carl Francese, a beloved Brookdale history professor who passed away in March, was also awarded a posthumous Outstanding Colleague Award for his 46 years of service to the college and its students.
“Carl had a deep love for the subjects of history and philosophy and was a fount of wisdom concerning contemporary politics and world affairs,” said history professor Jess LeVine, who hosted the awards presentation with fitness professor Michael Toomey. “He loved his colleagues and, to many of them, he was a quiet and kind of secret mentor and counselor.
“But Carl’s greatest love at Brookdale was for his students – over 15,000 of them,” added LeVine. “Carl was a marvelous teacher, imparting his knowledge and love of history to his classes. He always had time for his students, both in and out of the classroom.”
Francese’s award was presented to his wife, Nancy, who thanked the capacity crowd of faculty for recognizing her husband’s work and helping support the new Carl Francese Memorial Scholarship fund, which awarded two $500 scholarships to Brookdale students this fall.
Bonilla was recognized for her broad range of expertise and her tireless involvement in college initiatives such as governance, the Bankier Library Research Awards and Brookdale’s Global Citizenship Project.
“She is an ‘open book’ to all she teaches, encouraging students to discover for themselves the skills and resources they need,” said LeVine. “Our outstanding colleague wants them to be resilient critical thinkers, and to know their cycle of knowledge too.”
Hoffman was recognized for her steadfast dedication to the improvement of Brookdale’s nursing program and an endless devotion to her students. On campus, LeVine said, Hoffman is widely known for spending extra time outside of class with her students and even holding office hours on Friday evenings in Lincroft.
“Her colleagues note that she is completely devoted to her students, volunteering lots of extra time to help them through their studies and especially in preparation for for those brutal exams we hear so much about,” LeVine said. “Besides making us all look bad, her caring, professional ways and commitment to excellence and detail make her colleagues very proud of her.”
Huang, LeVine said, was nominated for the award by nearly her entire department, in recognition of her efforts to improve and expand Brookdale math courses and support college-wide programs like the Global Health Initiative.
“She developed the idea of and instituted a partnership course that combined ‘bean counting’ with actual field experience, to give students knowledge and connections to the ‘world outside the geometric circle,'” said LeVine. “For her students, the numbers add up. She is highly valued by them and her student-centered and fair treatment has made her very popular among her classes.”
Martens was recognized for his tireless efforts on behalf of Brookdale’s biology department, including participation in budget management, textbook selection, Open House staffing, degree mapping and professional development. He also formulated a new biology section for Brookdale honor students, LeVine said.
“A favorite of his students, it clearly shows,” said LeVine. “Our colleague was recently named as one of the top 25 professors nationwide on Rate My Professor. Congratulations to outstanding colleague Rob Martens.”
Wesley was selected for the award in recognition of her passion for student growth, including countless hours of one-on-one coaching and hosting informal study groups for members of her classes. She is also a frequent contributor to the Brookdale community, LeVine said, participating in governance, campus events and frequently speaking at academic conferences.
“She has gained fame as a cross-discipline ‘guru of the mind,'” said LeVine. “Her commitment to Brookdale is now legendary, as is her ready smile, her deep engagement with all she meets and her perpetual willingness to hear others’ stories and share her own. She is a big reason why Brookdale is family.”
View more photos of the award ceremony here.